A few years ago, I observed the procurement process a major law firm went through in the hope of being appointed to a bank’s legal panel. Apart from the online fee process, the bank also wanted to know what other services were on offer. They wanted access to partners and fee earners for free to make internal seminar presentations, as well as access to the firm’s library and research capabilities. Also, online billing and a line-by-line review of what they had been charged.
At the time the feeling was simply that the bank wanted to have their cake and eat it too. Banking was highly profitable at the time and it may have been just that. But many other corporates use the online process carefully to set legal fees and to extract the most benefit.
Times are changing for the legal profession. Rather than fight your clients who seem to want more for less, why not consider what is happening and embrace the opportunity to work with them to increase the productivity on their files and share the additional profit?
Over the last decade, UK productivity has actually lagged behind that of the French and Germans. This has been a problem with UK PLC for many years, but progress was being made before the credit crunch. Of course, all companies try to ensure that terms offered by legal firms are very good, but we must recognise that a lot of our corporates work on an international basis and, to maintain competitiveness, simply must inject efficiency into their business, including procurement.
Since I became involved with the legal profession in 2001, apart from the introduction of IT (often unsuccessfully), there has been little change in working practice. Firms need to ensure that their professional resources are matched to the technical needs of the matter rather than automatically delegated to a highly experienced and overqualified person.
Trainee solicitors may be paid less than qualified staff, but I hope in your firm that they are not routinely used to do the photocopying? Their time is often lost from the file or written off altogether, because they are assigned extremely basic tasks which the firm does not include on the charge sheet. Both firm and client suffer the effect of this inefficiency in a trade-off between fees and profit. If the complexity of the matter were assessed and the tasks then delegated and supervised appropriately, it could be completed at an “efficient” price point which retains client loyalty as they receive value for money, and turns all staff involved in the file into fee earners, albeit at levels appropriate to their experience.
So maybe it is time to ask ourselves the question: Are our clients making unreasonable demands, or are we missing out on a valuable opportunity to change?
BigWig Legal Network
What is BigWig Legal Network?
The deregulation of UK legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law will be practised and new legal services offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first legal membership development organisation, priced for membership affordability, that will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing legal services of the future.
Find out more at our Last Wednesday meetings.